Sánchez’ Revenge: Spanish Socialist Leader Stages Comeback

The former leader of the Spanish Socialist Party avenges himself against the woman who led a coup against him.

Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez listens during a meeting in Madrid, April 12, 2016
Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez listens during a meeting in Madrid, April 12, 2016 (PSOE)

The former leader of Spain’s Socialist Party, Pedro Sánchez, has avenged himself against the woman who led a coup against him last year.

Susana Díaz, the regional president of Andalusia, was the favorite to win the party leadership. She had the backing of regional bosses and the Socialist Party machine.

Yet it was Sánchez who prevailed. With 85 percent of the votes counted, he had built up enough of a lead on Sunday night to call the primary in his favor.

Sánchez won almost 50 percent support against 40 percent for Díaz. The remaining 10 percent went to Patxi López, the former president of the Basque Country.

Rajoy’s fate

The outcome throws fresh doubt on the fate of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s minority government.

It could only come to power last year after moderates in the Socialist Party, led by Díaz, forced Sánchez out.

His return to the party leadership means the Socialists are expected to become more difficult.

Blame

Díaz feared her party would be blamed for prolonging a political impasse if it didn’t allow Rajoy to stay in power.

Sánchez worried more about defections to the far-left Podemos. He only narrowly beat the anti-establishment movement into third place in the 2015 and 2016 elections.

Neither the Socialists nor Rajoy’s People’s Party won an outright majority. Podemos blocked a pact Sánchez had stitched together with the centrist Ciudadanos, leaving no other option than a minority right-wing government or snap elections.

Polls do not suggest another election would change much. Rajoy is still in first place with north of 30 percent support. The Socialists and Podemos are neck and neck, each hovering around 22 percent. The Ciudadanos, at 14 percent, would still be too small to help the Socialists to a majority on their own.